Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Tue, 9 Oct 2001 09:04:03 -0400

Two-Way Talk


What do you think about...? What is your advice on...? Can you tell me...?

In whatever form, these are the most flattering words you can hear. They assume that you have answers to share with the questioner.

I don't have all the answers, but definitely field plenty of questions. Some come from Running Commentary readers. Far more arrive by way of my website, which has 20 times as many weekly visitors.

I try to answer all of them, if only briefly or with I-don't-knows and check-somewhere-elses. (I can't, for instance, give day-by-day training schedules or advice on specific injuries by e-mail, or I'd have time for nothing else.) One of the longer and better exchanges runs in the newsletter each week.

This week that volume increases -- both because more questions than usual have come up lately and because they give a quick way to fill RC on Labor Day weekend when I'm not inclined toward laboring.

WEIGHT TRAINING. I find that there are next to no articles on heavier people, especially women like myself, who want to begin a running regimen. My dream is to cross the finish line of a race, but I have no idea how to start training. Any hints? (name withheld)

A: You can take comfort in knowing that runners now come in all shapes and sizes. I have no experience at being a woman runner or a heavier one. You'll find much more advice and encouragement from a mostly women's group called the Connectors (, whose founder Tawni Gomes lost dozens of pounds through her running.

FASTER FIVE. I am running in a 5-K event in eight weeks' time. I currently run the 5-K distance two or three times per week.

I timed myself the other day, and result was 26:20. I want to reduce this as much as possible, hoping to get down to 22 or 23 minutes. How can I accomplish this? (Leonie Williams)

A: The 26:20 is a good start for the little running you do. You have big improvement ahead if you make three simple additions to your routine:

1. Run a little more often. Three to five running days a week is the usual recommendation for basic fitness.

2. Go a little longer. Your current 5-K is fine most days, but about once each week you might up it to, say, 6-K to 8-K. This will make your 5-K races seem shorter rather than as long as you ever run.

3. Run faster occasionally. About once a week run the last kilometer or mile of your standard run as if it were a race -- that is, quicker than your usual pace.

HEART RATING. In addition to being an "addictive" runner myself, I am also a high school cross-country coach. I know you have stated in the past keep it simple regarding training. But what is your opinion and/or experience using the heart monitor as a training tool? (Wayne Wheeler)

A: The monitor has much to offer a young runner. Mainly it gives an objective standard of what proper pace is for a hard workout. The opposite use is also a great one -- giving permission to run easier on an easy day. Oldtimers like us can "feel" this, but newcomers may need some outside help.

This is about all the advice I can offer, not being a heart-monitor user myself. Almost anyone who habitually trains with one could tell you much more.

HATS ON. I haven't come across any article, by you or others, extolling the advantages of a hat. Do you know of any research, or is your preference for a hat just personal? (Dave White)

A: My wearing of a baseball-style cap is a practical choice. It keeps the rain off my glasses in winter and the sun out of my eyes -- and off my balding spot -- in summer. This means that more runs are capless than not.

A less-practical reason for wearing a cap in marathons: I dedicate each of these races to someone special, whose name is penned on the lower side of the brim. When the going gets tough, as it always does in marathon, and at the finish I reach up and touch that person's name.

LOOKING GOOD. While going past a blind runner and his guide in the Crim 10-mile race, I said, "Hey, keep it up. Looking good." Did I commit a major faux pas? (Tim Zindler)

A: You were honest, and I can't imagine that runner taking offense. He looked good TO YOU.

A longtime friend of mine, Harry Cordellos, is blind (and he once ran a 2:57 marathon.) After saying to him once, "See you later," I blushed and then apologized. He said, "Think nothing of it."

LIVING ON. I ran across an article about Walt Stack, written in 1986. Is he still alive and running? (Bill Cowan)

A: No, sad to say. The colorful and inspiring San Franciscan, a longtime friend of mine, died in 1995 at age 87. He lives on as an actor in the movie On the Edge and in Bob Bishop's book The Running Saga of Walt Stack, if you can find copies of either.


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